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Patricia Conde-Brooks


2017 Celebrating Black History Month by Guest Blogger Mosope Ani

Student Diversity and Inclusion Services is happy to share Mosope Ani’s perspective on the celebration of Black History Month

In the month of February, we celebrate Black History Month form February 1st – February 28th. The month-long celebration honors influential African Americans and recognizes the important role that African Americans have played in U.S. history.
Black History Month was originally known as Negro History Week. It started in 1926 and was meant to celebrate of black Americans while also bringing awareness to black identities. Carter G. Woodson started Negro History Week along with other prominent African Americans. This recognition was a result of the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH), which was founded by Carter G. Woodson and Jesse E. Moorland. Woodson was unhappy about the underrepresentation of African Americans in American history, and this led to the birth of the association. The organization was established for the promotion of African American history and describes its purpose to, “research, preserve, interpret, and disseminate information about Black life, history and culture to the global community.” ASNLH is dedicated to the celebration of past and present African Americans while also telling their story. Negro History week was held on the second week of February to coincide with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Fredrick Douglass.
The event inspired many schools and organizations to host their own celebrations, and in the decades that followed, mayors of many cities began issuing yearly proclamations recognizing Negro History Week. Negro History Week eventually became Black History Month when it was officially recognized by President Gerald R. Ford in 1976. This recognition was, as President Ford said, “the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”
Over the month of February, many events are held that highlight various aspects of black culture. Some of these events include spoken word performances, musical performances of various genres, influential films, museum showcases and panel discussions.
At the University of St. Thomas, SDIS, BESA and DAB have put together a series of events this month that give insight to the rich culture of African Americans. There will be a poetry slam, panel discussions and a Black History Month Dinner. These events are cosponsored by various groups on campus such as the Luann Dummer Center for Women, the English Department, and the Office of Mission. We urge you to attend some of the many events being held. Also, be sure to stop by the O’Shaughnessy-Frey Library to see the display with featured works, and visit T’s for a special menu from February 20-24.
This is a time to reflect on the contributions of African Americans to our everyday lives, and it is also a time to be aware of the issues that affect many African Americans today.
Happy Black History month! We hope you all get to experience and learn something new this month.
A detailed list of events can be found here

J-Term Book Club

The Distance Between Us: A Memoir by Reyna Grande 2017 J-Term Book Club selection.

reynaStudent Diversity and Inclusion Services has chosen The Distance Between Us: A Memoir by Reyna Grande as its 2017 J-Term Book Club selection. The Distance Between Us brings home the extreme risks and impossible choices those fleeing poverty and danger in Mexico are forced to accept – family separation, harrowing border crossings, perpetual fear of deportation – in hope of finding a better life, and reunification, in the United States.
The Distance Between Us: A Memoir is a compelling coming of age story about a young Mexican girl whose family decides to search for a better life and a more secure future beyond the bounds of the poor rural community they call home. The author helps us understand that when given bad choices by the circumstances of life, we make decisions and then must live with the consequences no matter how unexpected they might be.
Copies of The Distance Between Us will be distributed to all students who are J Term Book club participants.
Discussions will take Thursdays during the noon hour during the month of January. A visit by the author to campus on March 1st 10 will include a presentation open to the public. Details of the event will be made available, as the date approaches, on the SDIS website.
We believe The Distance Between Us will engage students and spur conversation campus-wide on a timely topic – immigration.


Learn more about Reyna Grande


Pride Week kicks off October 10th

pride-week-2016The weeklong celebration is hosted by SDIS, OutLaw! QSA, and DAB. It’s a collaborative effort to affirm the LGBT+ community by providing recreational, social and support services, and learning opportunities to continue fostering a positive campus climate.
Pride Week is a celebration of identity and expression. Many individuals come to campus without a lot exposure to the LGBT+ community. Pride Week is a platform to engage that learning opportunity and, overall, celebrate diversity.
University campuses vary widely in whether, how, and when they organize LGBT Pride observances. At St. Thomas, Pride Week takes place in the Fall. Our activities include speakers, panel discussions, movies, and a celebratory dance.
Throughout the week, there will be a large number of opportunities for students to get involved, this is the link to events.

Diversity, Heritage Month, Uncategorized

St. Thomas Celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month

hispanic-2016Hispanic Heritage Month is upon us; the celebration begins on September 15 and is set to continue for a full month until October 15. The purpose of the celebratory month is to recognize the contributions and vital presence of both Hispanic and Latino Americans to the United States and to observe their native heritage and contributing culture. The history of Hispanic Heritage Month has deep roots in the United States, the month long observation began in 1968, and always begins in the fall of each year. Originally the celebration was not a month long; in fact it was only a week. President Lyndon Johnson first approved Hispanic Heritage Week in 1968, and was expanded to a full month by President Ronald Reagan in 1988. Finally, Hispanic Heritage Month was officially enacted into law on August 17 of that year.

September 15 was not a date chosen at random; in fact the date contains a large amount of significance for multiple Hispanic nations. According to, the date is the anniversary of independence of five Latin American countries: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. They all declared independence in 1821. In addition, Mexico, Chile and Belize celebrate their independence days on September 16, September 18, and September 21, respectively. Hispanic Heritage Month was enacted to celebrate the fundamental contributions Hispanics have made to the growth, vitality and culture of North America.

This year at St. Thomas we once again celebrate and provide opportunities for the community to engage in the month-long celebration, details are available on our website.

As a Latina I fully embrace the necessity of this month. Hispanic Heritage Month is the month I remind you and myself that “mi gente” are powerful and resilient. Hispanic Heritage Month is the month I get to celebrate all of our accomplishments. This is the one-month out of the year where I get to remind you, boldly, that we matter and that we extend a “bienvenida” to you as you help us celebrate. Hispanic Heritage Month is not about one community but rather is it about realizing and accepting how vast and complex our varied cultures are within the Latinx narrative. Latino/Hispanic Heritage Month gives us a chance to celebrate what each of our cultures bring to the St. Thomas community. I encourage all students, faculty, staff and the greater campus community to join us in celebrating  ‘la cultura Latina’ through all the events and programs on campus. We are very excited for this year’s events!


“You Spoke, We Listened”

ncoreThis summer, the news has been filled with examples of many of the uncertainties and problems that plague our world today. What is the message of Black Lives Matter? How do we uproot the racism embedded in our justice system? What does immigration reform mean? Is anonymous speech good for society; is it destructive?

In order to engage students on some of these issues, SDIS provided an opportunity for all incoming first year students to share the causes they are willing to SPEAK UP about. Incoming first-year students watched “The Danger of Silence”, a TED Talk video by Clint Smith, during a breakout session at Orientation and Registration led by SDIS. After viewing the video, students had an opportunity to send an anonymous text message to a digital bulletin board, where they named a cause that they are passionate about. After meeting with 36 different groups of students over nine Orientation days, we saw that the following topics were the most oft-submitted as ones that the students want to speak up about.

1. Immigration
2. Black Lives Matter/Police Brutality
3. LGBTQ rights
4. Women’s rights
5. Islamophobia/Religious freedom

To respond to and generate discussion around events that matter to our students, SDIS will using these themes to help us frame our conversations during our weekly Purple Bench discussions on Friday afternoons. Purple Bench discussions are designed to encourage participants to step outside of their comfort zones, offer their opinions on challenging topics, and to not shy away from asking questions. No reading or research is required in advance at Purple Bench; it is a forum where people can talk about issues they care about, and a space where one need not be an expert in order to participate. We believe it is important to cultivate conversations on important issues that challenge us, so that we can learn from one another and become more familiar with having constructive dialogue with people who may hold and express different points of view.

During our annual Welcome Back to Campus social (September 9th 1-4 p.m.) we will provide an opportunity for the campus community to suggest other important issues we should be talking about during the upcoming school year. We really want an opportunity for faculty, staff and students to interact on the important social issues of our time, and we will continue to listen to our students and shape our weekly discussions to address the issues that matter to them.


On being American: Journalist, filmmaker–and undocumented immigrant–Jose Antonio Vargas to speak at St. Thomas

JAV new 4x6The University of St. Thomas Lectures Committee presents a lecture by Pulitzer Prize winner Jose Antonio Vargas on Tuesday, April 25, at 7 p.m. in Woulfe alumni Hall. The event is free and open to the public.

A Pulitzer-Prize-winning journalist, acclaimed documentary filmmaker, and founder of Define and #EmergingUS, Vargas seeks to elevate the conversation around race, immigration, identity, and citizenship in a multiracial America.

After “outing” himself as an undocumented immigrant in The New York Times, Vargas was featured on the cover of TIME magazine as the face of the conversations about immigration in America, and has testified before the US Senate. His film about his experiences, Documented, has won several awards and recognition by multiple film festivals and associations and will be shown April 21 at 5:30 p.m. MCH 100 as part of Diversity Dialogues. (You MUST REGISTER to attend… Register now in ASC 224 and receive your FREE t-shirt!) View the trailer for Documented here.

In July 2015, he produced and starred in White People, a film for the MTV “Look Different” campaign about being young and white in America.

Vargas’ further contributions to the conversation include Define American, a non-profit media and culture organization that seeks to elevate the conversation around immigration and citizenship in America, and#EmergingUS, a multimedia news platform launched in 2015 in partnership with the Los Angeles Times, focusing on race, immigration, and the complexities of multiculturalism.

In addition to his work on immigration matters, Vargas has had a prolific journalism career, including work for The New Yorker, the Huffington Post, and the Washington Post, among others; he has covered a wide range of topics, including tech and video game culture, HIV/AIDS, the 2008 presidential campaign, and an acclaimed profile of Mark Zuckerberg. Vargas was part of the team that won a Pulitzer Prize for covering the 2007 massacre at Virginia Tech, and his 2006 series on HIV/AIDS in Washington, D.C., inspired a feature-length documentary — The Other City — which he co-produced and wrote. In 2007, the daily journal Politico named him one of the 50 Politicos to Watch.


Heritage Month

Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month (HHM)

2015 his t

Hispanic Heritage Month (HHM) is back.

Established in 1968 as Hispanic Heritage Week (yes, it was once only a week) by President Lyndon Johnson, in 1988 President Ronald Reagan turned HHM into the 30 days between September 15 —the day five Central American countries celebrate their independence from Spain; plus don’t forget Mexico’s September 16 independence — and October 15. There is even a public law in the books saying that Americans must recognize this month so that, as the government’s official HHM page describes, we all celebrate “the histories, cultures and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America.”

Looking at some of the social media accounts that SDIS monitors and follow we saw the following question posed to audiences: “Let us know what you think about #HispanicHeritageMonth.”
Here are few of the twitter answers that we saw:
• Hate the word His-Panic. Let’s go with “El Mes De Latinos”
• It provides an opportunity to educate others of the richness of our culture and the accomplishments of our gente.
• Whether or not we are born in the USA or in our home country, to be who we are and have culture is always a celebration.
• Que viva Latinos everywhere! We are a great melting pot.
• While we celebrate important public figures, I want to celebrate every day Latinos who live exemplary lives.
• Every day for me is Hispanic Heritage Month
• I do enjoy the events my community puts on. It’s a way to celebrate the diversity among Latinos. That part is authentic.
Not sure what your thoughts are, but we would love to hear from you and invite you to celebrate with us and our UST community this month. Here is the link to events.
Tuesday  we started the celebration with the viewing of “Spare Parts”, we promised to post discussion/contemplative questions.
1. What solutions does SPARE PARTS present for helping teenagers excel in school and build healthy friendships? What can we learn from the robotics team about reaching out to at-risk youth?

2. Did SPARE PARTS change the way you see America’s immigration controversy? If you could re-write the nation’s immigration policies, what changes would you make (if any)?

3. Discuss the role of education in society. Manuela tells Joshua Davis that the fees for attending public schools in Mexico were small but sometimes hard to meet. How does a free education contribute to a free society? Should the curriculum include bilingual instruction?


We encourage you to provide your feedback and invite you to join us in the celebration!

Diversity, Poster contest

2015 Diversity Poster Contest “Embrace Diversity”

2014DiversityPosterContestWinnersLooking for great poster contest entries for 2015! Here is the 2014 winning poster and description.

Raymond Nkwain Kindva – 1st Place

 My poster is titled, Celebrate You…Because You are Diversity because it describes the influence of diversity on me. The poster contains two faces; my mother and I represented respectively by the woman on the left and the boy on the right. Both are looking up at the birds in the sky while the sun, represented by the words “Celebrate You…” radiates the sky and the horizon. This poster describes my feeling about diversity and why I wish to celebrate it.

My aim in designing this poster is to recognize the person who taught me to love my unique talents. This person is my mother – the woman on the left of the poster– who accepted me for who I am and has inspired me to accept others for who they are. She may not be the most educated person in the world but she taught me the power of believing in myself no matter how different I am. The words reflected on her face and mine are words I learned from her; words that did not mean anything to me when growing up. As a boy, I didn’t care much about my own differences but cared way more about how they fit to the world around me. That continued when I was a teenager as I tried to fit into every environment I was in. It led me to self-doubt myself whenever I did something that did not fit the type of environment I was in. Fortunately, my mother always stepped in to challenge my definition of being different and instilled the belief of using my differences to do something positive. My best quote of hers when I was in self-doubt is, “If Neil Armstrong believed we would never one day fly like birds, then he would not have been the first person to walk on the moon!” This quote has always inspired me to look at my uniqueness as a positive and one that could one day benefit the world.

For full detail visit-


Courageous Conversations, Diversity

Point of view by Dr. Calvin Hill UST Diversity Officer- “Diversity tension is inevitable, but we can argue our points responsibly.”

hillOn Thursday February 26, 2015, a group of St. Thomas students courageously organized a die/sit in in the Anderson Student Center. The purpose was to pay respect to the many lives lost to senseless violence in our country within the last year. As a brief recap to name just a few of those we lost: Tamir Rice (age 12) was shot and killed by police in Cleveland, OH in November of 2014; Micheal Brown (age 18) was shot and killed by police in Ferguson, MO in August of 2014; Eric Garner (age 43) died of neck compression from a chokehold at the hands of police in New York, NY July 2014; and most recently, three Muslim students attending the University of North Carolina, Dean Barakat (age 23), Yusor Abu-Salha (age 21), and Razon Abu-Salha (age 19) were shot and killed this past February by a neighbor.

According to student James Mite, President of the Black Empowerment Student Alliance, the protest had multiple goals: (1) It was intended to provide a safe space for students to express themselves, (2) It would allow students to pay respect for lives lost in the Black and Muslim community, and (3) It would build a community across cultural lines. In an email to several members of the community, Mr. Mite noted that his hope was “that students would leave the protest with a better sense of belonging here at St. Thomas.”

I decided to write this brief thought piece after learning about a series of posts to an anonymous social media site. As a diversity educator, I value diversity in all forms, including diversity of thought. Therefore, rather than let what could be an explosive situation go unchecked, I felt that this was a great learning opportunity for our campus community, to “build a community across cultural lines” as Mr. Mite stated as one of his goals for the protest.

February’s UST die/sit in stirred conflicting feelings from across our campus community. Why? My guess is that we had many members of our community examine the protest from their own lenses. The lives lost in the Black and Muslim communities have caused pain and outcry across many sectors of our country. As a Black male, having an understanding of historical oppression, and concerns over issues of trust, especially from those in positions of authority in this country, as well as the knowledge that any of the deaths noted above could easily have been me, a son, brother, father, or partner is frightening. But how could those who have not experienced the world, as I have understand my pain?

Conversely, for those who have grown up experiencing the police (or others in positions of authority) as being there to serve and protect them, how could they understand, that their lived experience interacting with the police is not universal? Arguably, we need to explore how our varied social identities bias how we see each other and the world around us. I write this to note that conflict around issues of diversity is not uncommon, but how we deal with our conflict will dictate the type of learning experience we can take from it.

I see this conflict as an opportunity to explore how our varied lived experience has caused us to think and interact as we do. Over the next several weeks, I will be working with the Division of Student Affairs to organize a series of Courageous Conversations. These conversations will serve as opportunities for us to address issues and learn about each other so that we can grow together as one community. I believe that we have a common interest in valuing each other and our diversity. Let’s make a commitment to challenge ourselves when we turn to the safety of our social identity and do something; let’s not be satisfied with continuing the status quo.

I want to encourage our community not to insult each other, or use personal attacks when we simply don’t understand conflicting realities. As noted above, diversity tension is inevitable, but we can argue our points responsibly.

Calvin R. Hill, Ph.D.
Diversity and Inclusion Officer

University of St. Thomas


A interview with Dr. Hill UST Diversity Officer by Loïc Attikossie


LoicHill2In Dr. Calvin Hill’s view, this is the perfect time to be the Diversity Officer at St. Thomas.
The University of St. Thomas recently hired a new Diversity Officer. He went through several formal interviews during the process and now that he is on campus, we sent of our Public Relations intern, Loic Attikossie to drop by and have a chat with Dr. Calvin Hill. We wanted to provide the student with an opportunity to learn a few things about Dr. Hill. Here’s what Hill had to say about the initiatives he is leading at UST:

Loic: What drew you to St. Thomas?
Dr. Hill:
That’s a good question. I’ve heard that one a lot. For me, I was looking for a career change. And I had a number of campuses I was looking at. One of my goals was to find an urban location. One of the things I liked about St. Thomas was the proximity to the St. Paul/Minneapolis urban core.
I grew up in the Dallas Fort Worth area, and as well as did my graduate work at Howard University in Washington DC so I really wanted get to an area that had what I would consider a vibrant cultural center. What I found is that this is an institution that fits that niche. When I came to the Twin Cities in November, not only was it visually stimulating when I walked around campus, but as I got an opportunity to interview and meet people, I just felt like this was a place where I would feel comfortable as well as a place where I could make a difference.
Loic: What did you major in?
Dr. Hill: As an undergraduate, I was a history and political science double major. My goal back then was to go law school, but then I did an internship my junior and then I didn’t changed my mind. I had to revamp myself. I did my master’s degree in Student Personal Administration, which is similar to the Educational Leadership, and Student Affairs program that St. Thomas has here. And I did my PhD in the area that I love which is political science. I wanted to study and research what was considered a hard discipline. And I also wanted to go to a Historical Black College ((HBCU.)

Loic: Describe your job in one sentence
Dr. Hill: I can probably do that in a few words. It is to create community.
I think about diversity and it’s about creating a climate that’s going to allow everyone to be successful and creating a climate where everyone is going to talk to each other. If you don’t know your neighbor then you’re not in a community.

Loic: What was the path to your current position?

Dr. Hill: I sort of came to diversity by default. My first job was an admission counselor for minority students at a predominantly white school. Yet, I was fortunate to have had great mentors along the way. One recommended I do my masters in student affairs. I knew when I was in that program I wanted to give back to students who had similar experiences to mine while trying to complete their education. I knew the trials and tribulations of being the only person to look like myself in a classroom and feeling like I had to give 120%. So for me going into D & I was not necessarily intentional. It was a path based on a passion, a need to give back.
Loic: What was the best advice you received along the way?
Dr. Hill: The best advice I had along the way was to go to Historical Black College. One of my mentors was Dr. Edward Butler at Emporia State University in Kansas, who had gotten me there for my Master’s program. I think Dr. Butler got tired of me complaining about being on a majority campus. As I was looking at doctorial programs, he told me, “Do something different do something for yourself.” I was admitted to the PhD program at Howard University. I flourished in DC. If you haven’t’ had a black college experience, in my opinion it is definitely worthwhile.

Loic: What are some initiatives will you be working this year?
Dr. Hill: One of those will be staff hiring. I want to make sure all of our students see staff members that are diverse; diverse faculty, and diverse individuals in leadership roles on campus.
We’ll be also looking at our recruitment process around creating a more diverse student body. We want to diversify our student population. That’s not just in reference in the terms in race and ethnicity. We’re going to be talking about how students are diverse from social economical differences, from ideological differences, regional differences. So we want to bring people to this campus that are diverse from all dimensions of human diversity. When we go into the world of work, we going to run into people that are different from ourselves. The more we can make St. Thomas a microcosm of the world, more specifically, the United States, the better prepared our graduates will be.

Loic: What do you value as a leader and diversity officer?
Dr. Hill: One thing I value is community. I can’t do my job alone. If you expect one person to come into this role and snap his/her fingers and make this a diverse campus, then you are wrong. My job is to serve as someone that can collaborate with different offices, students and create a climate that brings about increased civility and increased aspects of inclusion.
Loic: Has anything surprised you about UST so far?
Dr. Hill The level of openness to diversity. Right now, I’m meeting with what you would consider “the choir”. You know, the people that see the ultimate vision. I think that on every campus there are people who are maybe reluctant to change or are questioning perhaps why we need to change but I have not run into that. Everyone has been really open and has been talking about how diversity is absolutely critical to St. Thomas’ success and to its long-term longevity.

Loic: Is there anything else you would like the student body to know about you?
Dr. Hill: Oh my gosh, as you will see, today is bow tie Wednesdays. I know you guys have Tommie Tuesdays but I’m trying to bring to the institution but I’m trying to bring bow tie Wednesdays to St. Thomas. That’s sort of my trademark.
I’m a very open person and I want students to see me across campus or come into my office and feel like they can talk to me. I want to be here for all students, majority students and students from diverse backgrounds alike. You know we’re here for students. I can’t do my job if I don’t understand the student’s experience. I want students at any point and time to come say hi. Don’t hesitate to raise concern towards things that you feel need to change.

Loic: I was going to mention something about the bow tie, I like it.

Dr. Hill: Well thank you

Dr. Hill will be visiting with students during SDIS Purple Bench time on Thursday February 19 from 2-3 p.m. Please drop by and continue the conversation!

Interview conducted by Loïc Attikossie